How Do Americans Feel About Taxes Today? Tax Foundation's 2009 Survey of U.S. Attitudes on Taxes, Government Spending and Wealth Distribution

April 08, 2009
By 

Special Report No. 166

Key Findings

  • A new 2009 poll of tax attitudes finds a majority of U.S. adults still believe that the federal income taxes they pay are "too high" (56 percent).
  • 4 in every 5 adults say the federal tax code is complex (85 percent) and say that the tax system needs to be completely overhauled or needs major changes (82 percent).
  • The estate tax is seen as the most "unfair" federal tax, while the gas tax is seen as the most "unfair" state and local tax. Two-thirds (67 percent) favor a complete elimination of the federal estate tax.
  • While nearly one-third of all tax filers currently have no federal income tax liability after taking credits and deductions, two-thirds (66 percent) believe that everyone should be required to pay some minimum. Under half (44 percent) would be willing to give up some federal tax deductions in exchange for an across-the-board cut in federal income tax rates.
  • There is widespread opposition to taxes on food and drink deemed unhealthy, with over half (56 percent) opposing taxes on "junk food" in general. On the other hand, over half (53 percent) support government-run gambling operations such as lotteries and keno terminals.

 Introduction

Despite the recent political and economic shakeups, the Tax Foundation's 2009 Survey of U.S. Attitudes on Taxes, Government Spending and Wealth Distribution shows that American opinions on tax issues have not changed markedly since 2007, the last time the survey was done. Issues of tax complexity, fairness and burdens continue to be important to the American people.

This report summarizes the findings of a survey done by Harris Interactive® on behalf of the Tax Foundation from February 18-27, 2009. The survey covers a nationwide cross-section of 2,002 adults aged 18 or older.

This year's survey includes three new questions on wealth redistribution, taxes on food and drink deemed unhealthy, and government-run gambling operations such as lotteries and Keno terminals. The survey also includes two new demographic categories, where the survey asks respondents to identify their party affiliation and their political philosophy.

All data from this and previous years' surveys are available for download free of charge at www.taxfoundation.org under "Public Opinion Surveys on Taxes." 

Follow Us

Tax Policy Blog

The official weblog of the Tax Foundation.

Go

Tax By State

For information on your state, select it from the drop-down menu.

 

Ask a Tax Expert

Contact information for Tax Foundation policy staff Ask